You have to wonder what voters see in state Sen. Stephen Goldfinch. Because nearly everything he does is the opposite of local sentiment.
He’s just about the only elected official on the South Carolina coast who actually supports offshore drilling — enthusiastically, at that. He once testified before Congress about the great benefits of turning the Grand Strand into an oil field.
A few years ago, a company owned in part by the Republican lawmaker got into legal trouble for selling stem cells — yes, stem cells — through independent contractors without proper authority. Which is kind of what the GOP always accuses Planned Parenthood of doing.
And last week, Goldfinch tried to open the Yawkey Wildlife Center to hunters. Yes, hunters. The Yawkey Center is a 24,000-acre nature preserve in Georgetown County that shelters thousands of animals.
It is a place where people can see South Carolina’s coast in its unspoiled state, a haven for waterfowl and alligators. It’s a paradise, and one that could be lost.
Goldfinch put a proviso in this year’s state budget to stop the Department of Natural Resources from enforcing hunting and fishing regulations in the preserve.
That would no doubt lead to guys shooting up the place, at least from their boats, which would probably run off what animals they don’t kill.
It’s a bad scenario for a state senator from the coast who should be concerned about protecting the state’s fragile environment.
The whole point of a nature preserve is to give animals a safe place to exist without the threat of being shot. DNR officials say opening Yawkey to hunters would “devastate” South Carolina. And the season wouldn’t last long anyway.
See, the preserve was donated to the state by former Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey with the stipulation that if hunters were ever given access to the preserve, the land would revert to a New England trust. Which would then close it to everyone.
Goldfinch said that since Yawkey is dead, he shouldn’t be able to dictate what the state does with the land.
When word of this scheme got out, the public outcry was swift and loud. So Monday, he backed down and agreed to withdraw his proviso — with the understanding that DNR would allow access to some of the preserve’s beaches and tidelands.
That, he says, is what he wanted all along. He claims his proviso was merely a shot across the bow to thwart DNR’s plan to make going onto Yawkey’s beaches a trespassing offense.
Yeah, well then why did the proviso say “hunting?” Last week, Goldfinch said he was responding in part to complaints from hunters who have been stopped from accessing Mosquito Creek.
He contends this is all a big misunderstanding, that people have unfairly made him out to be the bad guy here.
If public access to state beaches is his primary concern, is it safe to assume he supports the idea of knocking down the gate at Debordieu Colony? That private community blocks access to Georgetown County beaches, too.
Think how much Georgetown’s economy would benefit from some handy public beaches. That would probably do more for locals than oil pipelines and refineries — which the senator says would “pay dividends for generations.”
Yeah, to shareholders.
So, senator, are you prepared to make Debordieu subject to the same public access as Yawkey?
Giving hunters an excuse to prowl Yawkey Wildlife Center is just about as ridiculous as letting people fish in Myrtle Beach’s Ripley Aquarium or giving big-game hunters license to shoot tigers and elephants at Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo.
So, Grand Strand voters, your mission — should you choose to accept it — is to find someone better to represent the people of coastal South Carolina. Preferably someone who won’t sell out the state’s environment to the lowest common denominator in exchange for a little power.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com.